Holy Life

chavarabig

St. Kuriakose Elijah’s Chavara: A Lovely Fruit Bearing Branch of Jesus and a Holy Priest Filled with Holy Spirit

Augustine Mlavarayil

Jesus, as so often, is working in the passage of the gospel St.John 15:1- 10 with the pictures and ideas which are the part of the religious heritage of Jewish culture. Jesus makes the message very clear that the only one thing that can save us is to have an intimate relationship or a living fellowship with him, because he is the true vine of God. Jesus invites us to be the true branches that are united to him .No external qualification can set a man right with God; only the fellowship of Jesus Christ can do that.

We have an exemplary model in the life of St.Chavara for being united with Jesus.In the light of the gospel passage of St.John 15:1-10, the life of St.Chavara could be well understood as a lovely fruit bearing branch of Jesus. Certainly, Jesus will depict him as a lovely fruit bearing branch of him. Because our limited understanding of the amazing personality of St.Chavara leads us to the truth that St.Chavara had nothing except the joy or the friendship of belonging to Jesus.

Let us gratefully reflect over the blessed life of such a great visionary. Though very limited our understanding is, Father Chavara’s life could be summed up in the following reflections

  • A life of deep and intense prayer which thought and acted far ahead of his times
  • A man who lived in the light of the vision of God
  • A charismatic leader of socio-cultural field who laid down his life in the service of humanity

The late Archbishop Mar Mathew Kavukattu wrote about him; “Fr.Chavara was a great Christian and a very holy monk. While he most scrupulously lived the life of a religious, dedicated to the love and service of God, the same divine love inspired him to devote himself as much as he could, to the love and service of men. It is a long and praise worthy record, his varied enterprises and activities for the religious, social and educational advancement of his fellow men.”

What could be the reason behind his manifold achievements? Even without a shadow of doubt or confusion, everybody will agree to the truth that the intimate fellowship with Jesus endowed him with a graceful existence. He had nothing except the joy of belonging to Jesus. St.Chavara writes in one of his letters; “Above all learn the art of loving Jesus, Stay constantly in his presence, and Walk along with him, Converse with him continuously.”

So, the fellowship with Jesus remains as the heart and soul of the spirituality of St.Chavara. He ascended every day to the hand of the heavenly father and descended every day to the needs of the people. He could grow vertically to the presence of God and horizontally to the needs and context of the people. So ascending to the heavenly father and descending to the needs of the people becomes the sole domain of Chavara spirituality.

Every one of us is called to be the part and parcel of this great legacy and heritage; a legacy of deeply pondered reflections, a heritage of serious intellectual discourse and a culture of reaching out people in their needs. Let us thank the lord for blessing the Indian Church with the charismatic leadership of  St.Chavara.

Let us make the efforts to be the faithful inheritors of Chavara spirituality. St.Chavara invites all of us to imprint a tag of God awareness into our psyche and to be the genuine bearers of the spiritual treasures of our catholic faith after the model of St.Charvara. The discontinuity from that consciousness may take us away from the path and dream of such a great visionary of our soil.

Loving Jesus, We pray through the intercession of St.Chavara for the graces to achieve an intimate fellowship with you so that we will become a lovely fruit bearing branch of yourself. May we be enabled to imprint a tag of God consciousness in our heart and soul.

Amen

Champion of Education

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Soli C.D.

            In the beginning of 19th Century the state government of Travancore began to take more interest in the field of education in line with the protestant missionaries. So they encouraged the missionaries. Both Hindus and Protestants profited much out of this. But the educational conditions of the Catholics were abysmal. Fr.Chavara realized that community would even remain subjugated if they did not move with the times and so he decided that the religious congregation should concentrate on educational work. So in 1846 Fr.Chavara established a Sanskrit school in Mannanam and admitted not only the Catholics but was opened to all irrespective of caste and creed .Parapuram mentioned the establishment of a Sanskrit school by Fr.Chavara at Mannanam in the following words:

            “At the same time (late fourties) a Sanskrit school was established at Mannanam, attached to the Monastery. Apart from the priests and others in the monastery, students from the neighbouring places, also came there for studies. For the proper running of the school they brought from Thrissur, a teacher belonging to the warrier caste. He was an expert in Sanskrit and Malayalam. His Services was very useful for preparing the books published from Mannanam in proper Malayalam idiom. Because of his expertise in Sanskrit Fr. Chavara also started to learn Sanskrit from him.”

            For the students he arranged the provision to supply study materials, cloths, and mid-day meals. Mannanam Chronicle (vol. III, p.30) has this entry dated November 1864, in the beginning of which Fr.Kuriakose visited Mannanam:“On Sundays and feast days many boys came to study catechism and remained here till Five ‘O’ clock in the evening. Some of them came from distant places. Some of them were poor. In order to promote more efficiently this so whole some and fruitful work, they thought that it was necessary to feed the boys at noon with kanji (rice gruel). They were also given cloths and sacred articles like rosaries, scapulars, etc. To meet the expenses involved for this as well as for the conversion of pulayas and for conducting the catechetical school, the means was decided as collection of ‘Pidiyari’ (handful of rice) every Sunday from every household…

            Later in the year 1864, while he was the vicar General of the Syrians, he took a very bold step, for which the country at large should be grateful to him. He issued a mandate, calling upon all parish churches under his jurisdiction to raise schools attached to each of them. For the poor students he arranged mid-day meals, which even the government schools were not providing at that time. The high literacy rate of present Kerala can be largely owed to the farsighted policy of Fr.Chavara in the establishment of a school for each parish. He was a brilliant scholar in literature, well versed in seven languages viz. Malayalam, Tamil, Sanskrit, Latin, Italian, Portuguese, and Syriac.

            Fr.Chavara was a great educationalist and had strongly advocated the cause of education. He wrote: “As soon as children are able to recognize things, they should be sent to school. Besides, the parents should enquire about their studies and their friendship. Every Sunday, their learning should be checked. In 1846 Fr. Chavara took essential steps in opening a printing press for the church in Kerala. From this press the first Malayalam daily paper, Deepika , came out in 1887 .  He was also the 1st Indian to start a printing press in private ownership.